Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Congregatio de Propaganda Fide

Celsus, quoted by Origen, Against Celsus 3.55 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
In private houses also we see weavers, cobblers, laundry-workers, and the most illiterate and bucolic yokels, who would not dare to say anything at all in front of their elders and more intelligent masters. But whenever they get hold of children in private and some stupid women with them, they let out some astounding statements as, for example, that they must not pay any attention to their father and school-teachers, but must obey them. They say that these talk nonsense and have no understanding, and that in reality they neither know nor are able to do anything good, but are taken up with mere empty chatter. But they alone, they say, know the right way to live, and if the children would believe them, they would become happy and make their home happy as well. And if just as they are speaking, they see one of the school-teachers coming, or some intelligent person, or even the father himself, the more cautious of them flee in all directions, but the more reckless ones urge the children to rebel. They whisper to them that in the presence of their father or schoolmasters they do not feel able to explain anything to the children, since they do not want to have anything to do with the silly and obtuse teachers who are totally corrupted and far gone in wickedness, and who inflict punishment on the children. But, if they like they should leave father and their schoolmasters, and go along with the women and little children who are their playfellows to the weaver's shop, or to the cobbler's or the washerwoman's shop, that they may learn perfection. And by saying this they persuade them.



Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Byzantine Achievement (1929; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell Inc, 1964), pp. 17-18:
But how is it that the world, the barbarians, contemptuous as they are contemptible, are still concerned with the existence of the Greeks at all? Whence has the flood of their misrepresentation been unloosed? The source is found in that curious mixture of sincere and artificial enthusiasm, Philhellenism.

The most frequent manifestations of this peculiar mental state, both in print and life, are the outcome of that jejune philosophy of living, which is the last heritage of the classical scholar. Student, ultimately interpreter, of Greek texts; endowed with a kindred love of exact reasoning and exact representation, together with a kindred absence of historical perspective and emotional outlet; he has fabricated from literature and stones an ideal of humanity, which he and his following have pronounced applicable to eternity. It is the singular odium of this eternal comparison, for centuries the bane of European culture, which necessitates, once and for all, the relegation of classicism to its just place in the tale of human development.

In history alone, the paper Philhellenes may be held responsible for as great a volume of calculated misrepresentation as the priestly editors of the Old Testament. Fanatically jealous for their idols' prestige, they visit the virtues of the fathers upon the twentieth-century children with a malignity so familiar that further mention of it is unnecessary. Flouting the rudiments of anthropology, dating a quarter of a century back, they continue to propagate the thesis that the ancient Greek was a Nordic giant, and that the modern is a Slav dwarf. In face of common-sense euphony, they persist in maintaining a pronunciation invented by the ignorant English scholars of the sixteenth-century, which utters "bazilews" for βασιλεύς instead of "vassilefs," "kilioy" for χίλιοι instead of "hilii"—thus rendering moribund a language which, after two millenniums, differs from Euripides considerably less than modern English from Chaucer. Though aware, if pretending to culture (which they possibly do not) that a cursive Greek hand has existed for more than a thousand years, they still compel submissive pupils to perform their conjugations in a disjointed and hideous script, thus dissipating the short hours of youth, and the straitened incomes of its progenitors, in useless effort. Finally, they range themselves in support of a cynical world's opinion that the twentieth century Hellene is no more than a negligible assemblage of human vices.


Avid Curiosity

Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Byzantine Achievement (1929; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell Inc, 1964), pp. 12-13:
Fundamentally, the salient and most permanent impulse of the race, is an avid curiosity. The zeal for knowledge, which inspired the first philosophers and the first scientists, differed in no way from that to which St Paul, in an age of new necessity, cast the bait of the Unknown God. To-day the "men of Athens" still greet one another with the words "τί νέον—what news?" and await an answer. In the country a regular formula of personal interrogation is the preliminary to all hospitality. There results from this insatiable attitude of enquiry, a universal, and to the Briton, extraordinary, respect for learning, for books as books, and for any aspect of cultural ability. From the highest to the lowest, even to the illiterate, this national trait has endured through the ages.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


An Expressive Language

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Lothair, Chapter XXVII:
'Well, now I shall begin my dinner,' he said to Pinto, when he was at length served. 'What surprises me most in you is your English. There is not a man who speaks such good English as you do.'

'English is an expressive language,' said Mr. Pinto, 'but not difficult to master. Its range is limited. It consists, as far as I can observe, of four words: "nice," "jolly," "charming," and "bore;" and some grammarians add "fond."'


Unequal Meals

Juvenal, Satires, Book I. Edited by Susanna Morton Braund (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; rpt. 2002), p. 306 (from the editor's essay on Satire 5):
Virro, the patron, is criticised throughout the poem for serving up two menus, one consisting of fine food for himself and guests of like status, the other consisting of grotty, inferior food — or, at some stages of the meal, of no food at all (a witty stroke, as we come to expect correspondence) — for guests such as his lowly client Trebius. This is not a novel theme in Roman literature: there are similar criticisms of the unequal feast at Martial 3.60, 3.82, 4.68, 6.11 and 9.2 (also, on specific items 1.20 (mushrooms), 1.43 (boar), 3.49 (wine), 4.85 (wine and cups)); Pliny 4.2.6; and, later, Lucian, Saturnalia 22 where the quantity of food, the boar, the wine-cups and the wine are all contrasted, with incidental reference to the different attitudes of the slaves (see Adamietz (1972) 85-96, Morford (1977) 221-6, Gowers (1993) 211-12). But J. develops this idea, which lends itself to Martial's treatment thanks to the antithetical tendency of epigram, into a bravura piece which portrays the breakdown of society in terms of alienation.
Michael Scherer and Zeke J. Miller, "Donald Trump After Hours," Time Magazine:
The waiters know well Trump's personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else.
Note: This is not political commentary. I am interested here only in the parallel between ancient and modern practices.

Related post: Stingy Hosts.

Monday, May 15, 2017



W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Matthew 1-7 (1988; rpt. London: T & T Clark Ltd, 2010), p. 525 (on Matthew 5:29 "It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell"):

Here are the extra-biblical parallels cited by Davies and Allison.

Diogenes Laertius 4.49 (= Bion of Borysthenes, fragment 57 Kindstrand; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He used repeatedly to say that to grant favours to another was preferable to enjoying the favours of others.

ἔλεγε δὲ συνεχὲς ὅτι αἱρετώτερόν ἐστι τὴν ὥραν ἄλλῳ χαρίζεσθαι ἢ ἀλλοτρίας ἀποδρέπεσθαι.
Seneca, On Anger 3.8.8 (tr. John W. Basore):
It is easier to refrain than to retreat from a struggle.

facilius est se a certamine abstinere quam abducere.
I don't have access to Graydon F. Snyder, "The Tobspruch in the New Testament," New Testament Studies 23.1 (October, 1976) 117-120, or Glendon E. Bryce, "'Better'-Proverbs: An Historical and Structural Study," Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Literature 108.2 (1972) 343-354, but G.S. Ogden, "The 'Better'-Proverb (Tôb-Spruch), Rhetorical Criticism, and Qoheleth," Journal of Biblical Literature 96.4 (December, 1977) 489-505, is useful. I came across the word Tobspruch in J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (Waco: Word Books, 1988), pp. 191-192 (on 1 Peter 3:17).

Thanks very much to John Cline for sending me a copy of Snyder's article, in which I see another extra-biblical parallel on p. 120, n. 1, viz. Andocides, On the Mysteries 125 (tr. K.J. Maidment):
The daughter of Ischomachus thought death better than an existence where such things went on before her very eyes...

ἡ δὲ τοῦ Ἰσχομάχου θυγάτηρ τεθνάναι νομίσασα λυσιτελεῖν ἢ ζῆν ὁρῶσα τὰ γιγνόμενα...


The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

John Milton (1608-1678), The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates:
[N]o unbridl'd Potentate or Tyrant, but to his sorrow for the future, may presume such high and irresponsible licence over mankinde to havock and turn upside-down whole Kingdoms of men as though they were no more in respect of his perverse will then a Nation of Pismires.
By the civil laws a foole or Idiot born, and so prov'd, shall loose the lands and inheritance whereto he is born, because he is not able to use them aright. And especially ought in no case be sufferd to have the government of a whole Nation.


High Tea

J.B. Priestley (1894-1984), The Good Companions, Book I, Chapter 6:
It may have been a splendid gathering but it was certainly a very odd meal. Inigo remembered other high teas but none higher than this. The forms were a solid mass of eaters and drinkers, and the tables were a solid mass of food. There were hams and tongues and rounds of cold beef and raised pies and egg salads; plates heaped high with white bread, brown bread, currant teacakes, scones; dishes of jelly and custard and blancmange and fruit salad; piles of jam tarts and maids of honour and cream puffs and almond tarts; then walnut cake, plum cake, chocolate cake, coconut cake; mounds of sugar, quarts of cream, and a steady flood of tea.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


They Are the Troublers

John Milton (1608-1678), Areopagitica:
There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. 'Tis their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meeknes, nor can convince, yet all must be suppresst which is not found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissever'd peeces which are yet wanting to the body of Truth.


Quiet Reading in Early Mornings in a Library Carrel

Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016), A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014), pp. 136-138:
Suddenly my irascible, endearing Jewish friend [Will Herberg] leaned into my face and told me that I was densely ignorant of Christianity, and he simply couldn't permit me to throw my life away. Holding one finger up, looking straight at me with fury in his eyes, he said, "You will remain theologically uneducated until you study carefully Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas." In his usual gruff voice and brusque speech, he told me I had not yet met the great minds of my own religious tradition.

He explained that he had gone through a long season of restitution after his erratic days and found it necessary to carefully read the Talmud and the Midrashim to discover who he was. Likewise he felt that I would have to go to a quiet place and sit at the feet of the great minds of ancient Christianity to discover who I was.


I asked myself, Could it be that I had been trampling on a vast tradition of historical wisdom in the attempt to be original?


I had read some Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, but I had never crawled through patristic texts with a listening heart. I had never truly inhabited that timeless, sacred world.


I plunged into reading the earliest Christian writers: Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr. I wanted them to feed my soul.

The maturing of my change of heart took place only gradually through quiet reading in early mornings in a library carrel, allowing myself to be met by those great minds through their own words.

While reading Augustine's City of God on the ironic providences of history, I finally grasped how right Solzhenitsyn was about the spiritual promise of Russia. And while reading Cyril of Jerusalem's Catechetical Lecture on evidences for the resurrection, I became persuaded that Pannenberg had provided a more accurate account than Bultmann of the event of resurrection.

While reading the dialogues of fourth-century Sister Macrina and the women surrounding Jerome, I now could trace the profound influences of women on the earliest and richest traditions of spiritual formation, especially in monastic and ascetic disciplines.

While reading John of Damascus on the providence of God in The Orthodox Faith, I realized that the reordering of theological ideas I thought I was just then discovering had been well understood as a stable and received tradition in the eighth century.

While reading John Chrysostom on voluntary poverty, I discovered that the existential freedom Viktor Frankl had experienced in the Nazi concentration camp had been anticipated by fourth-century Christian teachers, martyrs, and confessors.

And so it went. All of that happened while I was reading, just reading.


Oreobezagra and Mokhtar?

Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [2012]), p. 12 (ellipsis in original), with note on p. 536:
Examples of magical spells have survived. In the Oued Siliane in Tunisia, a stone was placed in the hills looking down over the fields:
Oreobezagra, Abraxas, Mokhtar ... Adonaï, lords and gods, keep away, turn away from this estate and from the fruits which grow in it—from the vines, from the olive-trees, from the sown fields—the hail, the mildew, the anger of hurricanes, the swarms of locusts, so that none of these plagues may attack this estate and the fruits that are all found there. Rather, protect them, always intact and healthy, as long as these stones, on which these sacred names are inscribed, remain in place in the earth and all around.28
28 P.A. Février, Approches du Maghreb romain: Pouvoirs, différences et conflits, vol. 2 (La Calade: Édisud, 1990), 17; A. Mastrocinque, "Magia agraria nell'impero cristiano," Mediterraneo antico 7 (2004): 795–836.
The works cited in the note are unavailable to me. The 2nd-3rd century A.D. inscription was first published by Naïdé Ferchiou (1945-2013) and Aimé Gabillon (1922-2010), "Une inscription grecque magique de la région de Bou Arada (Tunisie), ou les quatre plaies de l'agriculture antique en Proconsulaire," in Actes du IIe Colloque international sur l'histoire et l'archéologie de l'Afrique du Nord (Grenoble, 5-9 avril 1983) (1985) 109-125, also unavailable to me.

Brown's translation raised my suspicion because the first word (Oreobezagra) was a hapax legomenon in Google. Also, Mokhtar in Brown's translation is a common Arabic name, but not an accurate transcription of the name in the inscription. For a full translation with all of the magical names accurately transcribed, see Roy Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets. The Inscribed Gold, Silver, Copper, and Bronze Lamellae. Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance. Text and Commentary (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994 = Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1), p. 53 (I changed Kotansky's locust to locusts):
(Magic signs) Oreobazagra Oreob[azagra] Abrasax Machar Semeseilam Stenachta Lorsachthê Koriauchê Adônaie, sovereign (4) gods, hinder, turn aside from this property and from what is growing on it — in the vineyards, the olive-groves, in the seeding places — hail over the produce, grain-rust, fury (8) of Typhonian winds, a swarm of harmful locusts, so that none of these pernicious things touch this field nor any of the produce in it; (12) but guard them altogether unharmed and uncorrupt, as long as these stones engraved with your sacred names (16) are here lying about the land.
The Greek, from Kotansky, p. 52:
(Magic signs) Ορεοβαζαγρα, Ορεοβ[αζαγρα],
Αβρασαξ μαχαρ Σεμεσειλαμ στεναχτ[α],
λορσαχθη κοριαυχη Ἀδωναῖε, κύρ[ιοι]
θεοί, κωλύσατε, ἀποστρέψατε ἀπὸ τοῦ[δε]        4
χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ γεννωμένω[ν]
— ἐν ἀμπέλοις, ἐλαιῶσιν, σπορητοῖς τόπ[οις] —
καρπῶν χάλαζαν, ἐρυσείβην, ὀργὴ[ν]
τυφώνων ἀνέμων, κακοποιῶν        8
ἀκρίδων ἑσμόν, ἵνα μηδὲν τῶν λ[υ]-
μαιωτικῶν τῶνδε ἅψηται τοῦ-
δε τοῦ χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ [κ]α[ρ]-
πῶν πάντων· ἀσινεῖς δὲ αὐτοὺ[ς] καὶ ἀ-        12
φθόρους πάντοτε συντηρήσατε,
ἕως ἂν οἵδε λίθοι γεγραμ-
μένοι τοῖς ἱροῖς ὑμῶν ὀνόμα-
σιν ὑπὸ γῇ πέριξ κείμενοι        16
Thanks to my daughter, who gave me Brown's book as a Christmas present.


Saturday, May 13, 2017


Distracted from Learning Geometry

Aubrey's Brief Lives. Edited from the Original Manuscripts and with an Introduction by Oliver Lawson Dick, 2nd ed. (London: Secker and Warburg, 1950), pp. xcv-xcvi (Dick quoting Aubrey):
Mr. Hobbes told me, that G. Duke of Buckingham had at Paris when he was about twenty yeares old, desired Him to reade Geometrie to him: his Grace had great naturall parts, and quicknesse of witt; Mr. Hobbes read, and his Grace did not apprehend, which Mr. Hobbes wondered at: at last, Mr. Hobbes observed that his Grace was at mastrupation (his hand in his Codpiece).
"Mr. Hobbes" is of course Thomas Hobbes; "G. Duke of Buckingham" is George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.


All Bookshops Should Be Like This One

A friend just sent me this photograph of shelves in a bookshop in Italy:

The shelves are all labelled CLASSICI GRECI e LATINI.


The Thin Blue Line

Colotes, quoted by Plutarch, Against Colotes 30 (Moralia 1124 D; tr. Benedict Einarson and Phillip H. De Lacy):
The men who appointed laws and usages and established the government of cities by kings and magistrates brought human life into a state of great security and peace and delivered it from turmoil. But if anyone takes all this away, we shall live a life of brutes, and anyone who chances upon another will all but devour him.

τὸν βίον οἱ νόμους διατάξαντες καὶ νόμιμα καὶ τὸ βασιλεύεσθαι τὰς πόλεις καὶ ἄρχεσθαι καταστήσαντες εἰς πολλὴν ἀσφάλειαν καὶ ἡσυχίαν ἔθεντο καὶ θορύβων ἀπήλλαξαν· εἰ δέ τις ταῦτα ἀναιρήσει, θηρίων βίον βιωσόμεθα καὶ ὁ προστυχὼν τὸν ἐντυχόντα μονονοὺ κατέδεται.
Cf. Pirke Aboth 3.2 (tr. R. Travers Herford):
R. Hanina the deputy of the priests, said,—Pray for the peace of the government; for, except for the fear of that, we should have swallowed each other alive.

Friday, May 12, 2017


The Pinnacle of Pleasure

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus 131 (tr. Cyril Bailey):
Bread and water produce the highest pleasure, when one who needs them puts them to his lips.

καὶ μᾶζα καὶ ὕδωρ τὴν ἀκροτάτην ἀποδίδωσιν ἡδονήν, ἐπειδὰν ἐνδέων τις αὐτὰ προσενέγκηται.
A friend writes:
The papyri yet to be read or unearthed I'm sure will vindicate me in my reading of Letter to Menoeceus 131: καὶ μᾶζα καὶ οἶνος τὴν ἀκροτάτην ἀποδίδωσιν ἡδονήν, ἐπειδὰν ἐνδέων τις αὐτὰ προσενέγκηται.


Stemmata Quid Faciunt?

Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.140-141 (tr. Frank Justus Miller, rev. G.P. Goold):
For as to race and ancestry and the deeds that others than ourselves have done, I call those in no true sense our own.

nam genus et proavos et quae non fecimus ipsi,
vix ea nostra voco.


Hortator Scelerum Etc.

In his Loeb Classical Library translation of Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.45, Frank Justus Miller translated "hortator scelerum" as "criminal." In his revision of Miller's translation, G.P. Goold made no change to that rendering. Ajax is speaking, trying to convince the Greeks that he (and not Ulysses, the hortator scelerum) should be awarded the arms of Achilles. The phrase is borrowed from Vergil, Aeneid 6.529, where it also refers to Ulysses: see Neil Hopkinson's commentary on Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 88. Horace Gregory seems to translate the phrase as "bland liar," and Rolfe Humphries' translation is so loose that no trace of the phrase can be found. Translate "counsellor of crimes" or "encourager of crimes."

Id., lines 341-345:
Why does Ulysses dare to go out beyond the sentinels, commit himself to the darkness and, through the midst of cruel swords, enter not alone the walls of Troy but even the citadel's top, steal the goddess from her shrine and bear her captured image through the enemy?

                                   cur audet Ulixes
ire per excubias et se committere nocti
perque feros enses non tantum moenia Troum,
verum etiam summas arces intrare suaque
eripere aede deam raptamque adferre per hostes?
"Not alone" for "non tantum" in line 343? It's possible (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. alone, sense B.1), but I'd translate "not only" or "not just."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017



Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 1.6.29-40 (tr. A.L. Wheeler, rev. G.P. Goold):
That goddess, when all other deities abandoned the wicked earth,
remained alone on the god-detested place.        30
She causes even the ditcher to live in spite of his shackles
and to think that his limbs will be freed from the iron.
She makes the shipwrecked man, seeing no land on any side,
move his arms in the midst of the waves.
Oft has a man been abandoned by the skill and care of physicians,        35
but hope leaves him not though his pulses fail.
Those who are shut in prison hope for release, they say,
and many a one hanging on the cross still prays.
How many this goddess has prevented in the act of fastening the noose about their throats
from perishing by the death they had purposed!        40

haec dea, cum fugerent sceleratas numina terras,
    in dis invisa sola remansit humo.        30
haec facit ut vivat fossor quoque compede vinctus,
    liberaque a ferro crura futura putet.
haec facit ut, videat cum terras undique nullas,
    naufragus in mediis bracchia iactet aquis.
saepe aliquem sollers medicorum cura reliquit,        35
    nec spes huic vena deficiente cadit.
carcere dicuntur clausi sperare salutem,
    atque aliquis pendens in cruce vota facit.
haec dea quam multos laqueo sua colla ligantis
    non est proposita passa perire nece!        40
The same, tr. Peter Green:
That deity, Hope, when all other gods abandoned
    the wicked earth, remained: it's she who fills        30
even the shackled ditcher with zest for the future,
    faith that his legs will lose their chains;
it's she who keeps shipwrecked sailors swimming in mid-ocean
    with no land anywhere in sight.
Often the skill and care of doctors fail a patient,        35
    yet though his heartbeat wavers, his hopes stay high.
Those in prison are said to hope for deliverance,
    a crucified man still prays.
Many men, as they knotted the rope round their throat, this goddess
    headed off from the death they sought.        40
Commentary in Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto, Book 1. Edited with Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Jan Felix Gaertner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 371-376.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017


Authentic Experiences

Alvin Kernan, In Plato's Cave (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 36:
I had already picked up the literary scholar's habit of validating my own experiences—as the reader will have noted—by their correspondence to some literary scene, character, or phrase. For literary people, an experience is authentic only if you can find a literary antecedent.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Those Grave, Restrained, and Classic Writers

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), The Ebb Tide, Part I, Chapter I ("Night on the Beach"):
In the telling South Sea phrase, these three men were on the beach. Common calamity had brought them acquainted, as the three most miserable English-speaking creatures in Tahiti; and beyond their misery, they knew next to nothing of each other, not even their true names. For each had made a long apprenticeship in going downward; and, each at some stage of the descent, had been shamed into the adoption of an alias. And yet not one of them had figured in a court of justice. Two were men of kindly virtues; and one, as he sat and shivered under the purao, had a tattered Virgil in his pocket.

Certainly, if money could have been raised upon the book, Robert Herrick would long ago have sacrificed that last possession. But the demand for literature, which is so marked a feature in some parts of the South Seas, extends not so far as the dead tongues; and the Virgil, which he could not exchange against a meal, had often consoled him in his hunger. He would study it, as he lay with tightened belt on the floor of the old calaboose, seeking favourite passages, and finding new ones only less beautiful because they lacked the consecration of remembrance. Or he would pause on random country walks, sit on the pathside, gazing over the sea, on the mountains of Eimeo, and dip into the Aeneid, seeking sortes. And if the oracle (as is the way of oracles) replied with no very certain or encouraging voice, visions of England, at least, would throng upon the exile's memory,—the busy schoolroom; the green playing-fields; holidays at home, and the perennial roar of London; and the fireside, and the white head of his father. For it is the destiny of those grave, restrained, and classic writers, with whom we make enforced and often painful acquaintanceship at school, to pass into the blood and become native in the memory; so that a phrase of Virgil speaks not so much of Mantua or Augustus, but of English places and the student's own irrevocable youth.


A Land of Many Laws

Strabo 6.1.8 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones, with his note):
And Plato has said as much—that where there are very many laws, there are also very many lawsuits and corrupt practices, just as where there are many physicians, there are also likely to be many diseases.1

1 This appears to be an exact quotation, but the translator has been unable to find the reference in extant works. Plato utters a somewhat similar sentiment, however, in the Republic 404 E-405 A.

τοῦτο δὲ καὶ Πλάτων εἴρηκεν, ὅτι παρ᾽ οἷς πλεῖστοι νόμοι καὶ δίκαι παρὰ τούτοις καὶ βίοι μοχθηροί, καθάπερ καὶ παρ᾽ οἷς ἰατροὶ πολλοὶ καὶ νόσους εἰκὸς εἶναι πολλάς.
The implication seems to be that knavish lives (βίοι μοχθηροί) are the result of many laws (not vice versa).

Cf. Plato, Republic 3.13 (404 E-405 A; tr. Paul Shorey):
"And when licentiousness and disease multiply in a city, are not many courts of law and dispensaries opened, and the arts of chicane and medicine give themselves airs when even free men in great numbers take them very seriously?"

"How can they help it?"

ἀκολασίας δὲ καὶ νόσων πληθυουσῶν ἐν πόλει ἆρ᾽ οὐ δικαστήριά τε καὶ ἰατρεῖα πολλὰ ἀνοίγεται, καὶ δικανική τε καὶ ἰατρικὴ σεμνύνονται, ὅταν δὴ καὶ ἐλεύθεροι πολλοὶ καὶ σφόδρα περὶ αὐτὰ σπουδάζωσιν;

τί γὰρ οὐ μέλλει;

I noticed a misprint in Strabo 7.4.2 as printed in Strabo, Geography, Books 6-7, with an English Translation by Horace Leonard Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1924; rpt. ?  = Loeb Classical Library, 182), p. 230: καλουμενη (missing an accent) should be καλουμένη. The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.


Monday, May 08, 2017


True Education Is Always Oral

Pierre Hadot (1920-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (1995; rpt. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), p. 62:
True education is always oral because only the spoken word makes dialogue possible, that is, it makes it possible for the disciple to discover the truth himself amid the interplay of questions and answers and also for the master to adapt his teaching to the needs of the disciple. A number of philosophers, and not the least among them, did not wish to write, thinking, as did Plato and without doubt correctly, that what is inscribed in the soul by the spoken word is more real and lasting than letters drawn on papyrus or parchment.
Related post: Attendance in Class.

Our new overlords have forbidden us to use the term "master" in an educational context, so perhaps I should not even have quoted the passage above.



Aristotle, Politics 6.2 (1319b; tr. H. Rackham):
A democracy of this kind will also find useful such institutions as were employed by Cleisthenes at Athens when he wished to increase the power of the democracy, and by the party setting up the democracy at Cyrene; different tribes and brotherhoods must be created outnumbering the old ones, and the celebrations of private religious rites must be grouped together into a small number of public celebrations, and every device must be employed to make all the people as much as possible intermingled with one another, and to break up the previously existing groups of associates.

ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα κατασκευάσματα χρήσιμα πρὸς τὴν δημοκρατίαν τὴν τοιαύτην οἷς Κλεισθένης τε Ἀθήνησιν ἐχρήσατο βουλόμενος αὐξῆσαι τὴν δημοκρατίαν καὶ περὶ Κυρήνην οἱ τὸν δῆμον καθιστάντες· φυλαί τε γὰρ ἕτεραι ποιητέαι πλείους καὶ φρατρίαι, καὶ τὰ τῶν ἰδίων ἱερῶν συνακτέον εἰς ὀλίγα καὶ κοινά, καὶ πάντα σοφιστέον ὅπως ἂν ὅτι μάλιστα ἀναμιχθῶσι πάντες ἀλλήλοις αἱ δὲ συνήθειαι διαζευχθῶσιν αἱ πρότερον.
Strabo 9.3.5 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
Now the following is the idea which leads to the founding of cities and to the holding of common sanctuaries in high esteem: men came together by cities and by tribes, because they naturally tend to hold things in common, and at the same time because of their need of one another; and they met at the sacred places that were common to them for the same reasons, holding festivals and general assemblies; for everything of this kind tends to friendship, beginning with eating at the same table, drinking libations together, and lodging under the same roof.

ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐπίνοια αὕτη τῆς τε τῶν πόλεων κτίσεως καὶ τῆς τῶν κοινῶν ἱερῶν ἐκτιμήσεως. καὶ γὰρ κατὰ πόλεις συνῄεσαν καὶ κατὰ ἔθνος, φυσικῶς κοινωνικοὶ ὄντες, καὶ ἅμα τῆς παρ᾿ ἀλλήλων χρείας χάριν, καὶ εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ τὰ κοινὰ ἀπήντων διὰ τὰς αὐτὰς αἰτίας, ἑορτὰς καὶ πανηγύρεις συντελοῦντες. φιλικὸν γὰρ πᾶν τὸ τοιοῦτον, ἀπὸ τῶν ὁμοτραπέζων ἀρξάμενον καὶ ὁμοσπόνδων καὶ ὁμοροφίων.



John Ruskin (1819-1900), Val d'Arno, Lecture X, § 277:
The idea that money could beget money, though more absurd than alchemy, had yet an apparently practical and irresistibly tempting confirmation in the wealth of villains, and the success of fools. Alchemy, in its day, led to pure chemistry; and calmly yielded to the science it had fostered. But all wholesome indignation against usurers was prevented, in the Christian mind, by wicked and cruel religious hatred of the race of Christ. In the end, Shakspeare himself, in his fierce effort against the madness, suffered himself to miss his mark by making his usurer a Jew: the Franciscan institution of the Mount of Pity failed before the lust of Lombardy, and the logic of Augsburg; and, to this day, the worship of the Immaculate Virginity of Money, mother of the Omnipotence of Money, is the Protestant form of Madonna worship.
Ezra Pound (1885-1972), Canto XLV:
With Usura

With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,
with usura
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
with usura
seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly
with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour
with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stonecutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the maid's hand
and stoppeth the spinner's cunning. Pietro Lombardo
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin' not by usura
nor was 'La Calunnia' painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man's courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
                            CONTRA NATURAM
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

N.B. Usury: A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard to the possibilities of production. (Hence the failure of the Medici bank.)
Notes by Carroll F. Terrell on Canto XLV:

Sunday, May 07, 2017


A Network of Associations

Oswyn Murray, in The Oxford History of the Classical World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 209-210:
The developed Greek city was a network of associations: as Aristotle saw, it was such associations which created the sense of community, of belonging, which was an essential feature of the polis: the ties of kinship by blood were matched with multiple forms of political and religious and social groupings, and of companionship for a purpose, whether it be voyaging or drinking or burial.


In such a world it might be argued that multiple ties limited the freedom of the individual, and there is certainly an important sense in which the conception of the individual apart from the community is absent from Greek thought: the freedom of the Greeks is public, externalized in speech and action. This freedom derives precisely from the fact that the same man belongs to a deme, a phratry, a family, a group of relatives, a religious association: and, living in this world of conflicting groups and social duties, he possesses the freedom to choose between their demands, and so to escape any particular form of dominant social patterning. It is this which explains the amazing creativity and freedom of thought of classical Athens: the freedom which results from belonging in many places is no less a freedom than that which results from belonging nowhere, and which creates a society united only in its neuroses.
The freedom which results from belonging nowhere, which creates a society united only in its neuroses—this sounds like an indictment of our modern society.


Best and Worst for the Mind

Excerpt from Colmán Elo (555-611)?, "Apgitir Chrábaid" ("The Alphabet of Devotion"), in Thomas Owen Clancy and Gilbert Márkus, Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery (1995; rpt. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), p. 206:
What is best for the mind? Breadth and humility, for every good thing finds room in a broad, humble mind. What is worst for the mind? Narrowness and closedness, and constrictedness, for nothing good finds room in a narrow, closed, restricted mind.


Punishment for Unnecessary Emendations

Dov Zlotnick (1925-2014), Introduction to Saul Lieberman (1898-1983), Greek in Jewish Palestine/Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1994), p. x:
Rabbenu Tam (1100-1171), the greatest of the Tosafists, for example, wrote that it seemed to him that they "who emend needlessly will be sentenced to the chambers of hell."10

10 Sepher Hayashar, ed. S.F. Rosenthal (New York, 1959), p. 75.

Saturday, May 06, 2017


The Time Spent on the Classics

Mark Rutherford (pseudonym of William Hale White), Pages from a Journal, with Other Papers (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1900), pp. 202-203:
I have come to the conclusion that the time spent on the classics, both here and in Germany, is mostly thrown away. Take even Homer. I admit the greatness of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but do tell me, my dear godfather, whether in this nineteenth century, when scores of urgent social problems are pressing for solution, our young people ought to give themselves up to a study of ancient legends? What, however, are Horace, Catullus, and Ovid compared with Homer? Much in them is pernicious, and there is hardly anything in them which helps us to live. Besides, we have surely enough in Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, to say nothing of the poets of this century, to satisfy the imagination of anybody. Boys spend years over the Metamorphoses or the story of the wars of Aeneas, and enter life with no knowledge of the simplest facts of psychology. I look forward to a time not far distant, I hope, when our whole pedagogic system will be remodelled. Greek and Latin will then occupy the place which Assyrian or Egyptian hieroglyphic occupies now, and children will be directly prepared for the duties which await them.


The Purpose-Driven Life

John Keats, letter to George and Georgiana Keats (March 19, 1819):
I go among the Fields and catch a glimpse of a Stoat or a fieldmouse peeping out of the withered grass—the creature hath a purpose, and its eyes are bright with it. I go amongst the buildings of a city and I see a Man hurrying along—to what? the Creature has a purpose and his eyes are bright with it.


Health Care Proposal

In keeping with the spirit of the health care bill currently under consideration by the United States Congress, perhaps the following idea might prove useful.

Strabo 3.3.7 (on the northern Iberians; tr. Horace Leonard Jones, with his notes):
Their sick they expose upon the streets, in the same way as the Egyptians1 did in ancient times, for the sake of their getting suggestions from those who have experienced the disease.

1 Since this custom was followed by the Assyrians (Herodotus 1.197 and Strabo 16.1.20), and since there is no other account of such a practice among the Egyptians, some of the editors have presumed to emend the text, perhaps rightly.

τοὺς δὲ ἀρρώστους, ὥσπερ οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι1 τὸ παλαιόν, προτιθέασιν εἰς τὰς ὁδοὺς τοῖς πεπειραμένοις τοῦ πάθους ὑποθήκης χάριν.

1 Kramer conjectures Ἀσσύριοι for Αἰγύπτιοι, citing Herodotus 1.197 and Strabo 16.1.20. So read Forbiger, Müller-Dübner, and Meineke.
Strabo 16.1.20 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
They place the sick where three roads meet and question those who pass by, on the chance that some one has a cure for the malady; and no one of those who pass by is so base as not to suggest some cure when he falls in with them if he has any in mind.

τοὺς δ᾿ ἀρρώστους εἰς τὰς τριόδους ἐκτιθέντες πυνθάνονται τῶν παριόντων, εἴ τίς τι ἔχοι λέγειν τοῦ πάθους ἄκος· οὐδείς τέ ἐστιν οὕτω κακὸς τῶν παριόντων, ὃς οὐκ ἐντυχών, εἴ τι φρονεῖ σωτήριον, ὑποτίθεται.
Herodotus 1.197 (tr. A.D. Godley):
I come now to the next wisest of their customs: having no use for physicians, they carry the sick into the market-place; then those who have been afflicted themselves by the same ill as the sick man's, or seen others in like case, come near and advise him about his disease and comfort him, telling him by what means they have themselves recovered of it or seen others so recover. None may pass by the sick man without speaking and asking what is his sickness.

δεύτερος δὲ σοφίῃ ὅδε ἄλλος σφι νόμος κατέστηκε· τοὺς κάμνοντας ἐς τὴν ἀγορὴν ἐκφορέουσι· οὐ γὰρ δὴ χρέωνται ἰητροῖσι. προσιόντες ὦν πρὸς τὸν κάμνοντα συμβουλεύουσι περὶ τῆς νούσου, εἴ τις καὶ αὐτὸς τοιοῦτο ἔπαθε ὁκοῖον ἂν ἔχῃ ὁ κάμνων ἢ ἄλλον εἶδε παθόντα, ταῦτα προσιόντες συμβουλεύουσι καὶ παραινέουσι ἅσσα αὐτὸς ποιήσας ἐξέφυγε ὁμοίην νοῦσον ἢ ἄλλον εἶδε ἐκφυγόντα. σιγῇ δὲ παρεξελθεῖν τὸν κάμνοντα οὔ σφι ἔξεστι, πρὶν ἂν ἐπείρηται ἥντινα νοῦσον ἔχει.
Related post: Health Care Reform.


Obesity Outlawed

Strabo 4.4.6 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
The following, also, is a thing peculiar to them, that they endeavour not to grow fat or pot-bellied, and any young man who exceeds the standard measure of the girdle is punished. So much for Transalpine Celtica.

ἴδιον δὲ καὶ τοῦτο· ἀσκεῖν γὰρ αὐτοὺς μὴ παχεῖς εἶναι μηδὲ προγάστορας, τὸν δ᾿ ὑπερβαλλόμενον τῶν νέων τό τῆς ζώνης μέτρον ζημιοῦσθαι. ταῦτα μὲν περὶ τῆς ὑπὲρ τῶν Ἄλπεων Κελτικῆς.
Related post: Slim.

Friday, May 05, 2017


Ne Quid Nimis

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 239, § 361:
Moderation in all things. Not too much life. It often lasts too long.


Chief Orchardist

Denis Diderot (1713-1784), "Addition aux Pensées philosophiques," number 16, in his Oeuvres philosophiques, ed. Michel Delon (Paris: Gallimard, 2010), p. 40 (my translation):
The God of the Christians is a father who cares very much about his apples, and very little about his children.

Le Dieu des chrétiens est un père qui fait grand cas de ses pommes, et fort peu de ses enfants.
Thanks to Ian Jackson for the reference to Delon's edition.


Genesis of Modern Literature

The genesis of modern literature, as explained by Karl Kraus (1874-1936), tr. Jonathan McVity:
In the beginning was the review copy, and a man received it from the publisher. Then he wrote a review. Then he wrote a book which the publisher accepted and sent on to someone else as a review copy. The man who received it did likewise. This is how modern literature came into being.
The original, from Kraus' Sprüche und Widersprüche (Munich: Albert Langen, 1909), p. 182:
Im Anfang war das Rezensionsexemplar, und einer bekam es vom Verleger zugeschickt. Dann schrieb er eine Rezension. Dann schrieb er ein Buch, welches der Verleger annahm und als Rezensionsexemplar weitergab. Der nächste, der es bekam, tat desgleichen. So ist die moderne Literatur entstanden.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


The Professions

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 132, § 181:
What is the function that a clergyman performs in the world? Answer: he gets his living by assuring idiots that he can save them from an imaginary hell. It is a business almost indistinguishable from that of a seller of snake-oil for rheumatism. As for a lawyer, he is simply, under our cash-register civilization, one who teaches scoundrels how to commit their swindles without too much risk. As for a physician, he is one who spends his whole life trying to prolong the lives of persons whose deaths, in nine cases out of ten, would be a public benefit. The case of the pedagogue is even worse. Consider him in his highest incarnation: the university professor. What is his function? Simply to pass on to fresh generations of numskulls a body of so-called knowledge that is fragmentary, unimportant, and, in large part, untrue.


Angry Old Men

Scholiast on Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 954 = Suda Θ 574 (tr. David A. Campbell):
This is also a proverb, 'anger is the last of a man to grow old', applied to older men, since the older they are, the stronger their anger. Alcaeus [fragment 442] mentions it as being of general application.

τοῦτο δὲ καὶ παροιμιακῶς λέγεται, ὅτι ὁ θυμὸς ἔσχατον γηράσκει. λέγεται δὲ διὰ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους. ὅσῳ γὰρ γηράσκουσι τὸν θυμὸν ἐρρωμενέστερον ἔχουσι. καὶ Ἀλκαῖος ὡς λεγομένου κατὰ τὸ κοινὸν αὐτοῦ μιμνήσκεται.
Erasmus (Adagia I vii 13) translates the proverb as "Ira omnium tardissime senescit."


Hatred of the Modern World

Berlin in Lights: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (1918-1937), tr. Charles Kessler (New York: Grove Press, 1999), p. 397 (September 22, 1930):
Henry Clews is a not untalented sculptor. He has ornamented the innumerable pillars of his castle with grotesque human and animal faces to express his loathing of the modern world as manifested by the middle class, democracy, the herd outlook, and so on. His fanatical hatred of everything modern has not however precluded him from taking advantage of all inventions and conveniences the contemporary age has to offer: telephones in every room, splendid plumbing, and so on.


Brain Drain

Strabo 14.5.13 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers. But it is so different from other cities that there the men who are fond of learning are all natives, and foreigners are not inclined to sojourn there; neither do these natives stay there, but they complete their education abroad; and when they have completed it they are pleased to live abroad, and but few go back home.

τοσαύτη δὲ τοῖς ἐνθάδε ἀνθρώποις σπουδὴ πρός τε φιλοσοφίαν καὶ τὴν ἄλλην παιδείαν ἐγκύκλιον ἅπασαν γέγονεν, ὥσθ᾿ ὑπερβέβληνται καὶ Ἀθήνας καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρειαν καὶ εἴ τινα ἄλλον τόπον δυνατὸν εἰπεῖν, ἐν ᾧ σχολαὶ καὶ διατριβαὶ φιλοσόφων γεγόνασι. διαφέρει δὲ τοσοῦτον, ὅτι ἐνταῦθα μὲν οἱ φιλομαθοῦντες ἐπιχώριοι πάντες εἰσί, ξένοι δ᾿ οὐκ ἐπιδημοῦσι ῥᾳδίως· οὐδ᾿ αὐτοὶ οὗτοι μένουσιν αὐτόθι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τελειοῦνται ἐκδημήσαντες, καὶ τελειωθέντες ξενιτεύουσιν ἡδέως, κατέρχονται δ᾿ ὀλίγοι.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Asyndetic Privative Adjectives on a Magical Tablet

There is a pair of asyndetic privative adjectives (ἀκίνητοι ἄδρομοι) in R.S.O. Tomlin, "'Remain like Stones, Unmoving, Un-running': Another Greek Spell against Competitors in a Foot-Race," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 160 (2007) 161-166 (lines 27-31 of the tablet, on p. 163, with Tomlin's translation on p. 164):
                                                                                δῆϲον α[ὐτῶν]
τοὺϲ πόδοϲ, τὰ νεῦρα, τὰ ϲκέλη, τὸν θυμό[ν], τὴν ἀρε[τήν],
τὰ τριακόϲια πεντήκοντα πέ<ν>τε μέλη τῶν ϲωμάτων [αὐ-]
τῶν καὶ τῶν ψυχῶν, ἕνα μὴ δύνοντε προβένιν ἐν τῷ
ϲταδίῳ, ἂλλὰ μένωϲιν ὡϲ λίθοι ἀκίνητοι ἄδρομοι.

                                        Bind their
feet, sinews, legs, spirit, excellence,
the three hundred and fifty-five limbs of their bodies
and souls, that they be not able to proceed in the
stadium, but remain like stones, unmoving, un-running.



Bring Me a Cup

Anacreontea 48 (tr. David A. Campbell):
When Bacchus comes, my worries go to sleep, and I imagine that I have the wealth of Croesus; I want to sing beautifully; I lie garlanded with ivy and in my heart I disdain the world. Prepare the wine and let me drink it. Bring me a cup, boy, for it is far better that I should lie drunk than lie dead.

ὅταν ὁ Βάκχος ἔλθῃ,
εὕδουσιν αἱ μέριμναι,
δοκῶ δ᾿ ἔχειν τὰ Κροίσου.
θέλω καλῶς ἀείδειν·
κισσοστεφὴς δὲ κεῖμαι,        5
πατῶ δ᾿ ἅπαντα θυμῷ.
ὅπλιζ᾿· ἐγὼ δὲ πίνω.
φέρε μοι κύπελλον ὦ παῖ·
μεθύοντα γάρ με κεῖσθαι
πολὺ κρεῖσσον ἢ θανόντα.        10
Apparatus from M.L. West, Carmina Anacreontea, corr. ed. (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1993), p. 35:

Line 6 is more concretely and literally "I trample on everything in my heart."

Greek κύπελλον (beaker, goblet) and Latin cupa (cask, tub, barrel) are related to each other, and both are perhaps related to English cup: see Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, II (Paris: Klincksieck, 1970), p. 600; Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 155; and the Oxford English Dictionary.



H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), pp. 97-98, § 127:
The public schools of the United States were damaged very seriously when they were taken over by the State. So long as they were privately operated the persons in charge of them retained a certain amount of professional autonomy, and with it went a considerable dignity. But now they are all petty jobholders, and show the psychology that goes with the trade. They have invented a bogus science of pedagogy to salve their egos, but it remains hollow to any intelligent eye. What they may teach or not teach is not determined by themselves, or even by any exercise of sound reason, but by the interaction of politics on the one side and quack theorists on the other. Even savages have reached a better solution of the educational problem. Their boys are taught, not by puerile eunuchs, but by their best men, and the process of education among them really educates. This is certainly not true of ours. Many a boy of really fine mind is ruined in school. Along with a few sound values, many false ones are thrust into his thinking, and he inevitably acquires something of the attitude of mind of the petty bureaucrats told off to teach him. In college he may recover somewhat, for the college teacher is relatively more free than the pedagogue lower down the scale. But even in college education has become corrupted by buncombe, and so the boy on the border line of intelligence is apt to be damaged rather than benefited. Under proper care he might be pushed upward. As it is, he is shoved downward. Certainly everyday observation shows that the average college course produces no visible augmentation in the intellectual equipment and capacity of the student. Not long ago, in fact, an actual investigation in Pennsylvania demonstrated that students often regress so much during their four years that the average senior is less intelligent, by all known tests, than the average freshman. Part of this may be due to the fact that many really intelligent boys, as soon as they discover the vanity of the so-called education on tap, quit college in disgust, but in large part, I suspect, it is a product of the deadening effect of pedagogy.
Id., p. 102, § 134:
A professor, even at his best, is a pedagogue, and a pedagogue is seldom much of a man.
Id., p. 133, § 182:
It is still an open question whether the pedagogical methods of today are better or worse than those prevailing in the little red schoolhouse of the past generations, and many intelligent persons believe that they are clearly worse. There is certainly no such doubt about the improvement of methods, say, in medicine, farming or the common mechanical processes.



Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique, s.v. Secte, § 1 (tr. Abner Kneeland):
There is no sect in geometry; we never say,—An Euclidian, an Archimedean.

When truth is evident, it is impossible to divide people into parties and factions. Nobody disputes that it is broad day at noon.

Il n'y a point de secte en géométrie; on ne dit point un euclidien, un archimédien.

Quand la vérité est évidente, il est impossible qu'il s'élève des partis et des factions. Jamais on n'a disputé s'il fait jour à midi.

Monday, May 01, 2017


A Mass of Pretentious Babblers

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), "Socialism and Culture," Selections from Political Writings (1910-1920), tr. John Mathews (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977), pp. 10-13 (at 11):
We need to free ourselves from the habit of seeing culture as encyclopaedic knowledge, and men as mere receptacles to be stuffed full of empirical data and a mass of unconnected raw facts, which have to be filed in the brain as in the columns of a dictionary, enabling their owner to respond to the various stimuli from the outside world. This form of culture really is harmful, particularly for the proletariat. It serves only to create maladjusted people, people who believe they are superior to the rest of humanity because they have memorized a certain number of facts and dates and who rattle them off at every opportunity, so turning them almost into a barrier between themselves and others. It serves to create the kind of weak and colourless intellectualism that Romain Rolland has flayed so mercilessly, which has given birth to a mass of pretentious babblers who have a more damaging effect on social life than tuberculosis or syphilis germs have on the beauty and physical health of the body. The young student who knows a little Latin and history, the young lawyer who has been successful in wringing a scrap of paper called a degree out of the laziness and lackadaisical attitude of his professors — they end up seeing themselves as different from and superior to even the best skilled workman, who fulfils a precise and indispensable task in life and is a hundred times more valuable in his activity than they are in theirs. But this is not culture, but pedantry, not intelligence, but intellect, and it is absolutely right to react against it.

Bisogna disabituarsi e smettere di concepire la cultura come sapere enciclopedico, in cui l'uomo non è visto se non sotto forma di recipiente da empire e stivare di dati empirici; di fatti bruti e sconnessi che egli poi dovrà casellare nel suo cervello come nelle colonne di un dizionario per poter poi in ogni occasione rispondere ai vari stimoli del mondo esterno. Questa forma di cultura è veramente dannosa specialmente per il proletariato. Serve solo a creare degli spostati, della gente che crede di essere superiore al resto dell'umanità perché ha ammassato nella memoria una certa quantità di dati e di date, che snocciola ad ogni occasione per farne quasi una barriera fra sé e gli altri. Serve a creare quel certo intellettualismo bolso e incolore, cosí bene fustigato a sangue da Romain Rolland, che ha partorito tutta una caterva di presuntuosi e di vaneggiatori, piú deleteri per la vita sociale di quanto siano i microbi della tubercolosi o della sifilide per la bellezza e la sanità fisica dei corpi. Lo studentucolo che sa un po' di latino e di storia, l'avvocatuzzo che è riuscito a strappare uno straccetto di laurea alla svogliatezza e al lasciar passare dei professori crederanno di essere diversi e superiori anche al miglior operaio specializzato che adempie nella vita ad un compito ben preciso e indispensabile e che nella sua attività vale cento volte di piú di quanto gli altri valgano nella loro. Ma questa non è cultura, è pedanteria, non è intelligenza, ma intelletto, e contro di essa ben a ragione si reagisce.


Getting Even

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.6 (tr. C. R. Haines):
The best way of avenging thyself is not to do likewise.

Ἄριστος τρόπος τοῦ ἀμύνεσθαι τὸ μὴ ἐξομοιοῦσθαι.
Breathing and accent of Ἄριστος are missing from Marcus Aurelius. Edited and Translated by C.R. Haines, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1930? = Loeb Classical Library, 58), p. 132. The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. My hard copy has only a "Reprinted and revised" date of 1930, but the bibliography on p. xxxi includes works printed as late as 1966.

The same, as rendered in Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, tr. Michael Chase (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 29:
The best way to get even with them is not to resemble them.
Gregory Hays' translation:
The best revenge is not to be like that.
Definition of the middle of ἀμύνω in Liddell-Scott-Jones:
keep or ward off from oneself, guard or defend oneself against, freq. with collat. notion of requital, revenge.
To my taste, this smacks too much of turning the other cheek, an attitude which would have been incomprehensible to many, if not most, ancient Greeks. A speaker in Thucydides 7.68.1 (tr. Benjamin Jowett) said:
We should remember in the first place that men are doing a most lawful act when they take vengeance upon an enemy and an aggressor, and that they have a right to satiate their heart's animosity; secondly, that this vengeance [ἀμύνασθαι], which is proverbially the sweetest of all things, will soon be within our grasp.

καὶ νομίσωμεν ἅμα μὲν νομιμώτατον εἶναι πρὸς τοὺς ἐναντίους οἳ ἂν ὡς ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ τοῦ προσπεσόντος δικαιώσωσιν ἀποπλῆσαι τῆς γνώμης τὸ θυμούμενον, ἅμα δὲ ἐχθροὺς ἀμύνασθαι ἐκγενησόμενον ἡμῖν καὶ τὸ λεγόμενόν που ἥδιστον εἶναι.
Likewise Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.11.13:
To exact vengeance is sweet.

τὸ τιμωρεῖσθαι ἡδύ.
See K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), pp. 182-183, and W.V. Harris, "Lysias III and Athenian Beliefs about Revenge," Classical Quarterly 47 (1997) 363-366.

Commentary in Marcus Aurelius. Meditations, Books 1-6. Translated and with an Introduction and Commentary by Christopher Gill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 169-170:
Marcus, here as elsewhere (2.1, 5.22, 5.25.1, 5.28, 11.18.11–11.18.13, 11.18.16–11.18.18) rejects the standard Greco-Roman ethic of retaliation for wrongdoing and urges himself to instruct those who have done him wrong. The idea that retaliation involves 'becoming like' your wrongdoer (and thus harming yourself) evokes some Platonic passages (Tht. 177a, Lg. 728b), compare Epict. Diss. 2.10.26. The paradoxical idea that not becoming like those who wish to harm you is itself a kind of retaliation is a distinctive feature of this passage. See further on relevant Stoic ideas Long 2002: 250–4 (on Epictetus), Gill 2006:451–2.


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